Senior Drillers split opening weekend
Hockey: Senior AAA club posts first franchise win in Stony Plain
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 06:00 am
The new kids on the block didn’t waste any time proving they belong.
The Okotoks Senior AAA Drillers made a positive first impression in the opening weekend of its inaugural campaign in the Chinook Hockey League, earning a 6-4 win over the Stony Plain Eagles on Saturday after losing 5-3 to Innisfail the night prior.
“It was really huge just for confidence, momentum, getting the guys excited, and having fun really brings the team together,” said Drillers player/coach Curtis Billsten on the first win. “We’re realizing we can hang in this league, which we definitely more than can.”
With just 13 players on the bench, the Drillers built an early lead on Stony Plain and held the fort with tremendous goaltending from Gerry Festa. The former Calgary Hitmen netminder stood on his head in turning aside 37 of 41 shots.
First period goals from Daniel McIntosh, Tyler Helfrich, Billsten and Kyle Reed gave the visiting Drillers a massive 4-0 advantage.
The Eagles swooped back on second period goals from Brendan Baumgartner and Jordan Kolisniak before Okotoks’ Michael Kneeland re-established the three-goal advantage.
The third period saw markers from Stony Plain’s Scott Enders and Gerri Weller and an insurance goal from Driller forward Tyler McNabb.
Okotoks’ regular season debut didn’t go quite as well.
The Drillers dropped a 5-3 result to the Innisfail Eagles on Friday.
Reed scored Okotoks’ first goal of the season in the first period, answered by Innisfail’s Aaron Boyer. Luke Boyer’s second period tally gave the hosts a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Drillers battled their way back on a shorthanded marker from Branden Gay and an even-strength goal from Matthew Harvey, sandwiched by a tally from Eagle Darrin Robak, to make it a 3-3 game late in the third period.
Tylor Keller’s powerplay goal with 1:59 left and an empty netter to beat the buzzer locked up the two-goal win for Innisfail, a team coached by former Flames bench boss Brian Sutter.
“It was a good game and we’re going to have some learning curves with a lot of new faces on a brand new team,” Billsten said.
“We were all pretty excited and playing a bit too much of a run-and-gun game and caught ourselves pinching which cost us a few penalties and they stuffed in a few late ones.”
The Drillers (1-1) are on the road again this weekend for a pair of challenging dates. Okotoks squares off with the defending Allan Cup champion Bentley Generals on Friday and meets the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs on Saturday. The Drillers then enjoy two more road dates before opening its schedule at its home rink, the Scott Seaman Arena in Heritage Heights, on Nov. 16 versus the Generals.
The road-heavy opening month of hockey should be a mountain to climb for the newly established franchise.
“The reality to this season for us is more or less weathering the storm,” Billsten said. “Playing on the road, taking home games to Innisfail, it’s going to be tough.
“We have a lot of hiccups we’ve got to work out as an organization, let alone on the ice. With chemistry, systems, we should be behind the eight ball a little bit, but that’s part of the process and we’re excited to venture through it together.”
To keep track of the Drillers go to chinookhockeyleague.com